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O’Connor leads Reds to Super Rugby AU glory in epic

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The Queensland Reds came from behind to beat the Brumbies 19-16 in an absorbing and epic 2021 Super Rugby AU final at a packed Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane.

James O’Connor scored a last-gasp try to win the Queensland Reds their first Super Rugby AU title, and avenge last season’s final defeat to the Brumbies.

Most Valuable Player O’Connor scored all his team’s points as the Reds once again fought back to beat the Brumbies in a memorable match that will go down as a classic.

The 30-year-old MVP kicked four penalties and converted his winning score in a mature display at standoff to see his team over the line.

This game called for cool heads in the most intense circumstances, and the skipper came to the fore, especially at the end when decision-making would be the difference between glory or grief.

These two teams have served up three classic Australian derbies, which the Reds won from behind with last-minute scores.

The Brumbies have relinquished 17- 12-point leads only to lose by two in both regular-season matches.

It was the same sinking feeling tonight as the Reds again fought back from a seven-point deficit at halftime to win with the final play of the game, six minutes after the hooter sounded.

It was a thrilling denouement as both teams squandered lineouts with the clock ticking down.

The Brumbies lost two players to the sin-bin four toting up offences as the Reds laid siege – in truth, it could have been more. eventually, the champions ran out of steam and men.

They tried to stop the wave after wave of Reds attacks on the line but failed.

It was as if the raucous home crowd sucked O’Connor over the whitewash to give the Brisbane team another Super Rugby title, the Reds’ first since 2011.

Tom Banks’ first-half try, and the boot of Noah Lolesio, saw the Brumbies on the brink of back-to-back Super Rugby AU titles, but a thrilling last 10 minutes saw the Reds win the game at the death.

Queensland twice got the better of the Brumbies in the regular season, winning both games by two points after overturning 17- and 12-point deficits against the reigning champions.

Dan McKellar returned the Canberra franchise back to the top of Australian rugby after too long without silverware.

McKellar built a formidable, disciplined unit; he has created a powerful forward pack with the best driving maul in southern hemisphere rugby.

The Brumbies’ big ball carriers break the backs of the opposition before his slick backs run teams ragged.

The Reds, like last year, could not live with the pace and intensity of the defending champions, who ground Queensland down in the first half.

But Brad Thorn’s men regrouped, showed resilience, and did not lie down. They managed to hang in, and then strike at the end.

The Brumbies dominated the first half but only took a seven-point lead into the shed

The visitors had the better of the territory and possession. At one stage, the Canberra men had 90% territory and 80% possession.

Queensland finished the half having made double the amount of tackles, they won only half the amount of rucks, and their set-pieces creaked as turnovers came often.

O’Connor opened the scoring with a third-minute penalty, but the Brumbies hit back when Banks finished off a slick move 10 minutes later.

Nic White shifted the ball to Irae Simone. Simone sucked in the reeling defenders and played Lolesio, on his outside.

The standoff cut inside the defenders before putting Banks away under the posts. Lolesio converted

Taniela Tupou powered over from close range and should have scored; he did manage to place the ball, but only after several movements on the ground.

White and Banks both managed to get a boot and hand under the ball and force the referee to not award the try.

O’Connor’s second penalty on the half-hour made it 6-7, but Lolesio added two penalties of his own to open the seven-point lead at the interval.

Reds gain some momentum after the break, but struggle to put points on the board despite the extra man

Jordan Petaia went close soon after the restart, but the winger was tackled into touch before dotting down over the line.

The Reds were, however, beginning to take control for the first time in the contest, putting the visitors under pressure.

They had the opposition under the pump but could only score three when O’Connor added another penalty soon after hitting the post from in front.

Rob Valetini got yellow-carded on the hour for a dangerously high tackle. By then, the match was heating up as both sets of players began to get frustrated.

O’Connor knocked over his fourth penalty to make it 12-13 with a quarter of an hour to play.

Thrilling end to a fantastic contest as Reds dig deep to overcome Brumbies

The Brumbies slowed play down, milking the clock at scrums as they tried to get back to 15 men.

When Angus Scott-Young hit Lolesio high, the standoff chipped his third penalty through the posts to reopen the four-point lead, with nine minutes remaining.

With the clock ticking down, the game burst into life.

Darcy Swain and Henry Stowers both saw yellow, the Brumbies could only keep out the home team by illegal means.

The Reds lost a lineout on the opposition’s line with a minute to play. Somehow, they won possession when the visitors gifted the hosts possession from what should have been the last play of the game.

Again, the Reds came, again, they were repelled. As the capital side began to ship numbers, the Reds opted for a series of scrums under the posts, six versus eight.

Each attack saw Thorn’s men get pushed back, or lose possession before winning another penalty. Scrums and lineouts turned to tap-and goes.

The Red tide engulfed the white wall, and six minutes after the hooter, the ball was shifted to captain fantastic to wrap up the game, the title, and send the crowd into delirium.

Cue scenes.

Final Score: Reds 19 (6) Brumbies 16 (13)

Scorers

Reds
Tries – O’Connor
Pen – O’Connor (4)
Con – O’Connor
Drop –
Cards –

Brumbies
Tries – Banks
Pen – Lolesio (3)
Con – Lolesio
Drop –
Cards – Valetini (Yellow, 61′), Swain (Yellow’ 78), Stowers (Yellow 82′)

Match Officials
Referee: Nic Berry
Assistant Ref 1: Damon Murphy
Assistant Ref 2: Amy Perrett
TMO: James Leckie

Teams

Reds

15 Bryce Hegarty, 14 Jordan Petaia, 13 Josh Flook, 12 Hamish Stewart, 11 Jock Campbell, 10 James O’Connor (captain), 9 Tate McDermott, 8 Harry Wilson, 7 Fraser McReight, 6 Angus Scott-Young, 5 Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 4 Ryan Smith, 3 Taniela Tupou, 2 Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 1 Feao Fotuaika

Replacements:
16 Alex Mafi, 17 Dane Zander, 18 Zane Nonggorr, 19 Seru Uru, 20 Liam Wright, 21 Kalani Thomas, 22 Isaac Henry, 23 Filipo Daugunu

Brumbies

15 Tom Banks, 14 Andy Muirhead, 13 Len Ikitau, 12 Irae Simone, 11 Tom Wright, 10 Noah Lolesio, 9 Nic White, 8 Rob Valetini, 7 Rory Scott, 6 Nick Frost, 5 Cadeyrn Neville, 4 Darcy Swain, 3 Allan Alaalatoa (captain), 2 Lachlan Lonergan, 1 Scott Sio

Replacements:
16 Folau Fainga’a, 17 Harry Lloyd, 18 Tom Ross, 19 Henry Stowers, 0 Luke Reimer, 21 Ryan Lonergan, 22 Reesjan Pasitoa, 23 Mack Hansen

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